Manuel “Manu” Saez and Ignacio “Nacho" Flores were standouts for Mississippi Brilla FC this past summer. Although both are from Chile, the two did not know each other well before traveling down to Mississippi together in May. In fact, they compete against each other during the year as they play for rival college soccer teams from the same conference. Saez is a senior at Hannibal-LaGrange University, and Flores is a senior at Park University. Both schools are in Missouri, and both compete in the American Midwest Conference. College rivals on the field, but now teammates for life because of Brilla.
Being from the same country, Saez and Flores were natural fits as roommates this past summer for Brilla. The two bonded as brothers throughout the season, and the relationship has continued through their senior seasons.
Saez said, “We are really good friends now, thanks to Brilla.”
The two recently competed on the field as their college teams clashed at Park University. Flores’ team came out on top with a 2-1 overtime win, but Saez netted the lone goal for Hannibal-LaGrange. But the game itself was not what got our attention...
“It was a really good game, and it was senior night for Nacho,” said Saez. “I stayed with him for the weekend, and he asked me to walk with him as his family escort!"
The summer in Mississippi obviously led to a deep friendship between Flores and Saez, but being a part of Brilla also impacted their lives in other ways.
“I thank God that I am having a great season,” said Flores. “I am playing at a very high level compared to my teammates. My summer at Brilla definitely helped. I’m glad I was a part of Brilla.”
“I’m glad our paths came across,” said Saez. “I will always be in debt to Brilla and specifically Rusty and his family for all of the good moments and opportunities to meet amazing people. I am grateful for everything that Brilla did for us. It was an awesome experience and I learned a lot. Thank you for all of the support.”
Hannibal-LaGrange is heading into the conference tournament with a 6-3-2 record. Saez leads the team with 11 goals, and has also added 5 assists. Park University is 7-3-1, with Flores among the team leaders with 5 goals and 2 assists.